Presenting extensive archival research in a lively narrative, this study reveals how celebrated Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas mobilized cultural patronage and tourism in a project of nation building during the 1930s.
In the 1930s, the artistic and cultural patronage of celebrated Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas transformed a small Michoacán city, Pátzcuaro, into a popular center for national tourism. Cárdenas commissioned public monuments and archeological excavations; supported new schools, libraries, and a public theater; developed tourism sites and infrastructure, including the Museo de Artes e Industrias Populares; and hired artists to paint murals celebrating regional history, traditions, and culture. The creation of Pátzcuaro was formative for Mexico; not only did it provide an early model for regional economic and cultural development, but it also helped establish some of Mexico’s most enduring national myths, rituals, and institutions.
In Creating Pátzcuaro, Creating Mexico, Jennifer Jolly argues that Pátzcuaro became a microcosm of cultural power during the 1930s and that we find the foundations of modern Mexico in its creation. Her extensive historical and archival research reveals how Cárdenas and the artists and intellectuals who worked with him used cultural patronage as a guise for radical modernization in the region. Jolly demonstrates that the Pátzcuaro project helped define a new modern body politic for Mexico, in which the population was asked to emulate Cárdenas by touring the country and seeing and embracing its land, history, and people. Ultimately, by offering Mexicans a means to identify and engage with power and privilege, the creation of Pátzcuaro placed art and tourism at the center of Mexico’s postrevolutionary nation building project.
2019 Arthur P. Whitaker Prize for Best Book, Middle Atlantic Council of Latin American Studies
LASA Visual Culture Studies Section Book Prize, Latin American Studies Association (LASA)
- Chapter 1. Seeing Lake Pátzcuaro, Transforming Mexico
- Chapter 2. Creating Pátzcuaro Típico: Architecture, Historical Preservation, and Race
- Chapter 3. Creating the Traditional, Creating the Modern
- Chapter 4. Creating Historical Pátzcuaro
- Chapter 5. Creating Cárdenas, Creating Mexico
“Creating Pátzcuaro, Creating Mexico is a much welcomed addition to Mexican regional history…[Jolly] brings to light how the periphery informed nation-state building. ”
The Public Historian
“Creating Pátzcuaro, Creating Mexico makes important contributions to our understanding of 1930s Mexico, tourism development, art history, and the role of cultural policy in nation building. The book is essential for scholars interested in these fields and accessible for graduate and advanced undergraduate students.”
Hispanic American Historical Review
“A fascinating journey into art and tourism in Pátzcuaro...a welcome contribution to our understanding of regional art institutions and monuments, the interdisciplinary study of Mexican nation- and region-formation during the 1930s, and most importantly, the emergence of domestic tourism in postrevolutionary Mexico.”
“Jolly's acute book is successful in giving us a comprehensive view of the mechanisms by which the image of Pátzcuaro was created through a process of power engineering...Creating Pátzcuaro, Creating Mexico demonstrates how history, art, and tourism can be combined and serve as a technology of governance.”
“Through her consideration of visual culture, Jolly links the regional to the national (and the national to the regional), and thus effectively illuminates the ways in which the molding of Pátzcuaro's local identity contributed to Mexico's nation building overall. Jolly offers a significant study, but her colorful discussion of Pátzcuaro's art, murals, architecture, and streets ensure a lively read as well.”
American Historical Review
“As a compelling account of the creation of a particular historical and cultural narrative for Pátzcuaro in the context of building a national Mexican identity, Jolly's book constitutes both an excellent scholarly contribution and a fascinating and insightful story well worth reading.”
“Fascinating, smart, provocative—Jolly’s highly successful book blends art history, politics, and theory to make important arguments about the ‘creation’ of Pátzcuaro, Mexico, in the middle decades of the twentieth century. With Pátzcuaro as its case study, Creating Pátzcuaro serves as a wonderful introduction to the cultural and social transformations of Mexico under Cárdenas.”
Jason Ruiz, University of Notre Dame, author of Americans in the Treasure House: Travel to Porfirian Mexico and the Cultural Politics of Empire
“This book makes significant contributions to cultural history and the scholarship on regionalism, tourism, and Cárdenas’s presidency. In fact, given that this is really the only book on regionalism as it pertains to cultural production, I believe it will be eye-opening for scholars in the disciplines of both history and art history. It provides an ambitious model for how we might pursue regional histories of nation building.”
Mary K. Coffey, Dartmouth College, author of How a Revolutionary Art Became Official Culture: Murals, Museums, and the Mexican State